Saturday, September 26, 2009


You never know that to expect when you sign up for a trip to go see waterfalls, even in the states, one can’t be 100% sure of what to expect. Are we going to drive up a road that takes us to the water, and get out of the car and take photos? Are we going to have to walk a little bit to see the waterfalls? Or, are we going to be hiking up a mountain and follow the waterfall from the base up? You see, these are all good questions, and I kinda wished I would’ve asked the last two.

Living here in Russia, I’ve learned to go with the flow. Now, I was never one to need a plan and to need all the details lined up before doing something, that’s not me. I’m very laid back and relaxed, I’m a go with the flow kinda girl. Well, living here, I’ve gotten even more relaxed, and here’s why. I have no idea what anyone is saying! They could be telling me that they are fixing to feed me to a pack of starving lions, and as long as they did so with a smile on their face, I would do whatever they motioned for me to do. So, two weeks ago when my new friend, Yana, asked me to go to the waterfalls with her English Club, I said yes, and didn’t really ask for details. Thankfully, though, I did think to ask what she would be wearing, and when she said, “oh you know my trainers”, I’m just thankful I’ve watched British telly, so I knew what trainers were.

Let’s move ahead to this morning…
This morning we left our apartment with Yana and Kolya picking us up at 8am, in their van…well we thought we were going in their van. Julie and I walked outside to meet up with them, and see them standing in our parking lot without van. That’s when Yana informed us that they rode the bus, so we all hopped on the bus and headed to the northern part of town. About 40 minutes later, we get off the bus, and then proceed to walk a few blocks to another bus stop, where our waterfalls bus awaited us. We were told by Kolya, who speaks a little English, that the ride was about an hour away. We didn’t realize he meant an hour away from this town called Artyom that was about an hour away from our city.

Our tour guide talked the entire time on the ride there and Yana translated everything for us. I got to pass through the longest village in all of Russia (I’m not sure what that means) and I also got to learn all about the animals and flora and fauna of the Far East as well as other waterfalls around the world. We finally arrived at the waterfall around 12ish and we proceed to empty out of the bus. I looked around and saw people leave things on the bus, so I asked Yana what all I should take. She said, oh just take what you think you will need for this trip, because it’s in total five parts. So, I head on out with everyone else thinking I was going to see one of the five waterfalls. We start hiking up this hill, and it’s a little muddy but not too bad. Our guide stops us and points to this guy in our group, Yana informs me that his name is Ivan and he’s here to help us with our hike. I took a quick glance around the group and notice that half of our group is overweight smokers or they are senior citizens, so I turned to Yana and said, what do you mean by “help us”? I’m thinking he’s like a medic and we’re all about to die, and the guide expecting people to pass out. Yana just laughs and says, “he’s here to help us”. “Oh okay,” I say and follow them up the hill. Little did I know that this hill soon turned into a muddy mountain and this first trip, was actually the whole trip, and all five parts were being hiked to at once. We weren’t going to have the bus to drive us to the next part and the next part and the next. It was all us, hoofing it up the mountain, and yes, I mean mountain.

I soon found out why our helper was there. You see, parts of this hike were climbing up huge muddy rocks, and one cannot climb them without a rope to help pull yourself up, and then one also need someone else pulling you up at the top. I looked up at these spots and I immediately thought of the little old grannies that were with us and I wondered how are they going to get up that? Then I thought of the overweight smokers who had lit up a cigarette at least twice every hour…how were they going to get up those rocks? That’s when I looked up and one of the grannies was climbing the rock, and I noticed her footwear. She was wearing dress shoes with a heel!!!!! Yes, dress shoes!! I couldn’t believe, and I took pictures to prove it! I watched as our
helper pulled her up the mountain, and then I realized, oh that’s why he’s here. He’s our helper!

I’m not going to lie, it was a hike, but it was beautiful and I loved it and would do it again. After our hike, we then hiked down the mountain and walked down into the valley and riverbed for a picnic lunch. They had tables setup with tablecloths, and even another table set up to the side with herbal tea and canned caramel. We sit down to a soup of potatoes, carrots, noodles, onions, some type of purplish leafy things, and meat (it’s a don’t ask and don’t want to know type of thing). As I’m sitting there the girl across from me pulls out this bottle of fermented honey and water and offers it to me. I was being offered moonshine!! Wow! What’s a little Baptist girl like me supposed to do when offered homemade moonshine…well you turn it down, and I did, and I think she was okay with it. Then all of a sudden, her friend beside her pulls out this plastic container that has bread slices with butter and a little dish of these cute little orangish red things. She offers me some and I look at Yana and ask, “What is it?” “Oh it’s caviar,” was her reply. The lady offers it to me again, and I thought what the heck, I’ve never tried it before and I hate fish but why not try it, after all I’m in Russia, caviar is cheaper here than in the states and it’s a huge Russian tradition. I put some on my buttered bread and took and bite, and what do you know…I liked it!!! Then I even put a spoon full on my bread and ate it all (I have pictures to prove it Mom)! Caviar is much cheaper here than in the states, you can buy about 4 lbs for about $20-$30 USD. I’m glad I tried it.

Well, after eating caviar, we played a few Russian kids games on the riverbank. On the walk back to the bus, my caviar friend bought a huge basket of red berries from one of the villagers. I was offered some of them, I pulled one off and put it in my mouth and right about the time I bite down on it, Yana looks at me and says, “Oh they’re very bitter.” Heck yes they were bitter! I asked them why people would eat them and she said they are very good for your blood pressure. Also, she mentioned that usually people put them in tea or make a compote, which is a bunch of fruit boiled together, kinda like juice and a little sweet.

Anyway, my day didn’t quite turn out the way I had imagined it to be, it was long, but good! I got to spend time with some two of my students, as well as Yana and Kolya. I got tons of great photos of the waterfalls, the forest, and of me eating caviar, and I’m glad I went. Here’s what I learned…it’s okay to not know what you’re doing and have to depend on the nationals. It’s okay to trust them with your life, literally, and to follow their lead. Yeah, you may have to climb a few mountains, but you’re building relationships, which will hopefully lead to sharing about eternal things, which are way more important than my terminal earthy things.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A New Sister

Camp is such a different experience than back home. Here’s how it’s different. It’s about 10 days long, and the staff brings their families and babysitters along. They wake up each morning at 9 am to the sound of silly Russian folk music, then with people calling them to come to the morning workout session. Breakfast is at 10am, lunch at 2pm and dinner at 7pm. There is a lot of free time, but the staff uses that time to build relationships with the campers. They usually have two daily sessions that have about an hour of songs and skits and then at least an hour or more of preaching. Also, the rooms and bathrooms are quite different than what one would expect for camp. Well the rooms aren't bad, it's just a different setup than normal. The bathrooms are what's really not for the faint of heart! But, hey I survived and so did Julie! It was a learning experience! :)

But you know with all of the differences there were some amazing things I got to see. One of them I wouldn't trade the world for, and it has to do with my new friend and sister, Anya, when she was baptized. Anya has a pretty rough home life, her mother is mentally insane and verbally abusive and her father is strongly against Christianity. So, it was such an incredible thing to see when she was baptized, because it was a step of faith.

Baptisms are done a little different here. First of all, there isn’t a baptistery with man made lighting and manually heated water. The “baptistery” was the ocean with the sun lighting up the day and heating up the water.

Everyone walked out to the beach and started singing, while the Anya, the pastor, and the photographer and video guy made their way out into the ocean. The ocean is very shallow where we were, so it took them about five minutes to finally get deep enough. When they arrived, the pastor turned and faced the crowd on the beach and raised his hands toward the sky. A hush fell over the crowd. Even though they were pretty far out into the water, you could hear Pastor Eduard's voice. As he was praying with his hands lifted to the sky dedicating our new sister to God, I an image came to my mind of what it was like for Moses, when he parted the sea. I realized, that this was what it was like during Jesus' day when he would go out a little ways from the shore and preach to the crowd.

Pastor Eduard amen carried in the wind, and all was quiet as we watched. The second she was lifted from the water, the praise music started back up. Then Pastor Eduard raised his hands again to the sky and Anya did the same. You could see a huge smile on her face and as she prayed to God. I could feel the Holy Spirit there with us on that beach and chills covered my body. Wow, what a sight to behold. That was the sign of true freedom! Even though her father threatened all sorts of things if she was baptized, she trusted in her Heavenly Father, no matter the cost.

Welcome to the family, Anya!

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